Lucknow: The T.N.
Seshan ghost seems to be haunting Uttar Pradesh after a lull of
many years. Usually poll time sets the entire state abuzz with
colourful election activity but campaigning is turning out to be a
rather quiet affair this time.
The official machinery is all geared up to enable the state's 12
crore voters to elect 403 legislators for a giant sized assembly,
but there is unusual silence on the streets, thoroughfares and
Be it the politically vibrant areas in and around Varanasi,
Gorakhpur and Allahabad in eastern Uttar Pradesh, or the rough and
rustic western towns of Meerut, Bulandshahr, Budaun and Baghpat,
or the badlands of Etawah, Mainpuri, Etah or Farrukhabad in
central Uttar Pradesh, or poverty-ridden Bundelkhand or communally
sensitive districts, the scene is no different anywhere.
It is hard to believe that the seven-phased elections from Feb 8
are barely a fortnight away. Nor do you see posters, banners,
buntings, flags or even stickers or badges. Even ads in newspapers
"One wonders how a contestant is expected to tell his electorate
that he or she is in the fray," remarked analyst Arvind Mohan.
Even loudspeakers have vanished from the scene. Gone are the days
when loudspeakers would blare from every lamppost and tree and 'netas'
would be screaming their lungs out to deafen the cries of rivals.
The common refrain is: "It is very difficult to choose from among
candidates, specially independents, because one is just not clear
about those in the fray."
Even senior leaders of leading parties have no choice but to go
"Yes, I am going to every voter's house," confessed former state
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Kalraj Misra who is contesting
from Lucknow's North constituency.
State Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the nominee from
Lucknow Cantonment, also speaks in the same tone. "I am busy
covering every lane and bylane, knocking on every door to seek
people's support, there is no choice."
"The fundamental freedom usually available in all democratic
elections is completely missing in this election. It is rather
unfair to disallow even a small flag or a sticker on a vehicle,"
is the common complaint of leaders and ordinary workers of all
While stringent measures to nip everything that is loud and
extravagant in an election are reminiscent of the Seshan days,
when the Election Commission showed its teeth for the first time,
the present poll panel chief S.Y. Quraishi seems to have gone a
If anyone is found carrying anything more than a few thousand
rupees in cash, the money is seized on the suspicion that it is
meant for buying off voters, complain some.
If there are several liquor bottles in your luggage boot, you are
booked for transporting liquor for distribution to woo voters,
they say. Firearms - licenced or unlicenced - are seized on the
apprehension that they could be used to intimidate voters.
More than anything else, what has become a genuine problem,
particularly for independent nominees is the complete ban on
posters, banners, buntings and badges.
"In the past, we could go around distributing small badges to send
word around that one was in the electoral fray, but what does an
independent do now?" asks scientist-turned-independent candidate
Shatrughan Pandey, who is in the fray in Lucknow Cantt.
"Political parties have other ways to project their candidates,
but an independent with modest means cannot do beyond badges or
small posters," he lamented.